Industry partnership launches 'Cook It Safe'

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — Starting in September, US consumers will be encouraged to follow package preparation instructions to fully cook pre-prepared foods and prevent foodborne illness, thanks to a partnership between the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, International Food Information Council, Food and Drug Administration, Partnership for Food Safety Education and organizations representing the frozen food and home appliance industries.

“Frozen or refrigerated convenience foods are popular items in many Americans’ homes, but there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to cooking these foods,” said Al Almanza, FSIS administrator. “Some of them can be microwaved, but others can’t. The ‘Cook It Safe’ campaign is designed to heighten awareness of this problem and correct misconceptions, putting an end to needless, preventable illnesses.”

Consumers need to improve their safe food-handling practices, indicates the 2011 IFIC Foundation Food & Health Survey. “With only 61 percent of Americans following all package cooking instructions, and even less using a food thermometer [19 percent], this is a unique opportunity to help educate and inform consumers to ‘Cook It Safe,’” said Marianne Smith Edge, senior vice president of nutrition and food safety of the foundation.

Consumers are being encouraged through the “Cook It Safe” campaign to read and follow all cooking instructions printed on food packages before preparation. Two public service announcements will feature teenagers, a known target group for these types of illnesses. To prevent foodborne illness, follow the Cook It Safe Taskforce’s four basic messages:

1. Read and follow package cooking instructions.
2. Know when to use a microwave or conventional oven.
3. Know your microwave wattage before microwaving food.
4. Always use a food thermometer to ensure a safe internal temperature.

The safe internal temperatures that will ensure bacteria is killed in different types of foods are: Whole cuts of fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb, 145°F, followed by a three minute stand time; fish, 145°F; ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb, 160°F; eggs and egg dishes, 160°F; all poultry, ground or whole: 165°F; leftovers and casseroles, 165°F; hotdogs and reheated deli meats, 165°F or steaming hot.

The centerpiece of the Cook It Safe campaign is a pair of high-resolution videos that can be viewed at www.youtube.com/usdafoodsafety. The Cook It Safe Taskforce will author four blog posts, each highlighting one of the campaign’s messages. Each will be posted on IFIC’s Food Insight blog at www.foodinsight.org/nutrition-blog.aspx and shared through the members’ respective social media outlets.
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